I love this city. I fell in love with it on my first visit nearly three years ago, with its steaming concrete urban sprawl, the too-wide roads I couldn’t cross, the patchy pavements I could barely walk on, the friendly – sometimes too friendly – cab drivers, the ritual greetings I had to learn and the lingering sound of the adhan that punctuated each day. Above all, I could feel its pulse. There are cities I’ve spent time in that have barely registered with me. Cairo was – is – alive. Always.
But there are times when its frantic soul resonates in a different way, like static from a hundred radio stations playing at the same time. Or the sound of nails violently screeching across a blackboard. When your nerves are shot and you want nothing more than to escape the relentless din, the angry cabbie, the clogged-up traffic and persistent stares and crawl into the sanctuary of your king-size bed. Today was one of those days.
I am tired. I am probably pre-menstrual. I have been away from the city for nearly four months. I am still acclimatising to the stifling humidity, after the crisp air of London. All of these factors made me want to jump into a cab the moment I stepped outside my office, instead of walk the approximate seven minutes it would have taken to get home.
But I did it. And once I’d crossed my personal Rubicon – otherwise known as 26th July Street – it got easier (crossing roads here is a little like drinking alcohol – you have to build up a tolerance to it or you could be stuck on the sidewalk for a while). I braved the man randomly welding on my left and the shower of sparks that resulted, the six different men who muttered under their breath as I passed, the long pitch black darkness that is Hassan Sabry Street and the hormonal teenagers sprawled, as always, outside Hardees and I made it home. And I’m glad I did it. It’s the little victories that count sometimes.